Category Archives: Op-Ed

Quality Over Quantity, Except When Substitutes Are Involved

I remember it as if it was yesterday: I was a fourth grader, trading Spice Girls cards during class breaks, watching way more TV than any kid should, when I saw the Spice Girls’ “Move Over” music video during the Super Bowl, in which the pop phenomenon shook their groove things in front of a Pepsi banner. From then on, no matter the place, my drink of choice was a “diet Pepsi”. I was The Next Generation, as the ad emphasized, and I drank Pepsi because it was cool, hip and [I believed] tasted better than a Coke.

Each Soda Magnate spends fortunes trying to differentiate its respective brand, but when broken into its simplest parts, both Pepsi and Coke are composed of sugar (or aspartame in a Diet), water and caramel color.

I drank Pepsi up until university, where it just so happened that Coca-Cola supplied the entire campus. I still drank Pepsi often when I went out, but eventually started viewing the two as substitutes, happily switching between ordering a Pepsi or a Coke based on availability. Since starting at Ogilvy last June, where Coke is also the supplier, I continued to consume Coca-Cola products daily – by default.

To explain this recount of my childhood soft-drink consumption: I realized yesterday, as I sat on a plane killing the last twenty minutes of the ride while drinking a diet Coke, that I cannot remember the last time that I drank a Pepsi; I have become a loyal Coca-Cola drinker. And I’m not the only one. In fact, Karl Lagerfeld drinks 10 cans of Diet Coke per day.

While many view brand loyalty as the result of successful advertising (it very often is), in which case the consumer becomes loyal to the brand, in this experience, my brand loyalty to Coca-Cola is the inevitable result of Coca-Coca’s loyalty to me. Coca-Cola has been the main supplier of beverages in many places I’ve been, thus I have come to view Coca-Cola as a reliable, consistent choice. Of course, not every brand has Coca-Cola’s market power, but this example shows the obvious influence of distribution, and the importance of a brand’s commitment to its consumers, especially with substitute products.

How Culturally Sensitive Do We Need To Be??

In recent weeks there’s been a lot of talk about our society being a tad bit, oversensitive.  Living in the media world that is NYC you tend to be inundated with examples of stories that provoke this.  Stories about race, culture, sports, and of course the media world itself.

But what I’ve seen to the start of 2012 really has me scratching my head, and questioning when is it enough?  The three instances below range from a unique look at the racial lines in sports, how people interrupt art (or advertising), and finally an ad that tears open an old wound.

Jeremy Lin becomes a story for a team struggling to find something to captivate the starving NY hoops market.  He sets off a firestorm with his family heritage (he’s Taiwanese), going to Harvard, and being cut in the NBA (twice).  For all the good of telling a story we all want to hear, there’s backlash as well.  Reporters were suspended and one lost his job for using a racially insensitive sport metaphor once the magic dust started to wear out.  Separately, Ben & Jerry’s pulls a new flavor honoring Lin in Cambridge because of an ingredient.

photo: The

What came out of this was an interesting Saturday Night Live skit, personifying how sensitive our society can be.

Next is the story about the out-of-home advertising campaign for the season premiere of Mad Men.  A simple ad that doesn’t even tell you what it is, but if you are a fan (or actually in advertising) you know what aired this past Sunday night.  Yet there was outrage because someone felt the ad represented a man falling from a building.   Now, I can’t tell anyone what he or she should or shouldn’t see in the ad because that would be like looking at a painting and trying to dictate what the art says to him or her.  However, for those in the NY area this was a frightening image and many demanded AMC pull the ads.

photo: AMC

And most recently, meaning at the start of March Madness, the fans of the University of Kentucky took to social media to blast UPS.  In their latest campaign “Game Changers”, UPS analyzes the game winning shot in the 1992 NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Kentucky and Duke.  The ad highlights logistics, breaking it down into its simplest form.  Allowing consumers to truly understand how logistics play a part in almost everything we do, “No pass, no shot”.

So because UK lost this game, and UPS used it as an example to amplify their message and sponsorship of the NCAA Final Four… some consumers have felt the need to switch to FedEx.  The UPS Facebook and #UPS twitter had Kentucky fans calling for a boycott of UPS service.

I went to Michigan, and the last thing I want to do is to be reminded of some gut wrenching loss to Ohio State.  But at the same time that’s what college sports are all about.  It’s a part of the landscape within sports.  Being outraged at a brand for telling their story in an entertaining way tells me that 1) they did their job in engaging consumers as this spot has 48k+ views, almost 45k more than the next video 2) that some people still haven’t healed from that loss from more than 20 years ago … now this is truly OVERSENSITIVE!

But on a separate note, congrats on making it to the 2012 Final Four … hope that helps ease the pain, especially knowing Duke lost on the first weekend of the Tourney.


Advertising: The New Music Industry

It’s a tough time to be a record label. Consumers are not buying records at nearly the same scale they did ten, or even five years ago. Albums that used to sell 700k copies in their first week are now selling 200k. Albums that used to sell 200k are barely making a splash. With piracy ubiquitous amongst millennials and the proliferation of free releases, some have said that recorded music has simply lost its value. For others, however, there is another way to monetize aside from touring, it just lies outside of the music industry.

As brands increasingly try to communicate their messaging through entertainment properties, music has become more valuable to advertisers. In the ever-evolving battle to stay “relevant” amongst consumers, particularly millennials, music is a powerful tool. Hence, you’re more likely to see agency people at the latest band showcase or sticking around for the music portion of SXSW. If you were in Austin during that time, you might have caught Jay-Z performing at an AMEX-sponsored concert to promote a new feature the brand is debuting with Twitter. Or, you might have seen a panel called “Advertising is the New Radio.”

Having the right soundtrack to a TV ad or creating an event or content program with a hot new band is a way for brands to meet their target through a passion point and create an authentic connection. When a consumer views a brand as a curator that understands their cultural wants, they are much more likely to trust them to understand their transactional needs. This has the collateral effect of giving added value to recorded music at a time when consumers simply aren’t buying it directly. For that, musicians, brands and consumers should be thankful. Record labels… not so much.

It’s the End of TV as We Know It…Or is it?

Back in September, 2011, OgilvyEntertainment released the embedded video below:

However, according to the LA Times and a report by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Senior Analyst Todd Juenger, teenagers are watching more television than ever. The study states that the average teen watches almost four hours of television per day, up from three hours in 2004. This challenges the common perception that teenagers are ditching traditional media forms such as television and newspapers to enjoy content via new media, including tablets, laptops and/or smart phones. The study goes on to say that although newspapers have been impacted by the rise of the Internet, television viewing has not. In Juenger’s opinion, a major factor behind the ‘misconception’ that TV watching has decreased is false reporting; he states, “everybody over-reports usage of Internet and mobile video and under-reports usage of traditional television.” He continues to explain that, as people age they watch more TV, and thus far, “teens are following [these] historical patterns.”

I’d like to read Juenger’s report to learn more about his research methods and sample size – four hours of television per day seems unrealistic to me. Even more startling, the study claims that adults watch six (6) hours of television per day – that’s 25% of one day and an even larger percentage of the waking day. I sincerely hope that my fellow Americans have better things to do with their time than watch six hours (360 minutes) of TV in a day. Sure, I enjoy some shows (Mob Wives, anyone?), but as a human being with a family, social life and JOB, these statistics are unfathomable to me.

What do you think? Has your television consumption changed with the rise of digital content? Am I crazy for thinking that four hours of TV per day is unreasonable?

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IBM’s Watson: From Jeopardy to Wall Street

When IBM’s Watson computer debuted on Jeopardy last year, most people saw it as a very cool and impressive gimmick. Yes, the computer could beat brainy champion Ken Jennings at his own game, but to many this just seemed like another example of computers being smarter than humans ­– a familiar concept to anyone who uses a calculator. Yet, through the buzz surrounding the show and the advertising that followed it, Watson became a brand. And IBM is using that brand to extend their impressive technology to other areas.

Watson is now officially an IBM client offering, not just a TV event. IBM first sold Watson’s data analyzing technology to healthcare clients such ass WellPoint Inc. and Seton Health Family, and recently expanded to financial services. The first major client in that field is Citigroup, but IBM expects more clients to follow as they realize that “analytics is the new core in competitive banking,” according to Michael Versace, head of risk research at International Data Corp.’s Financial Insights. Watson has an edge because it’s able to crunch numbers process more complex language ­– sentences and paragraphs, rather than words and phrases.

Within the context of these business extensions, we can now look at Watson’s Jeopardy appearance for what it really was: a fantastic launch event. The tremendous buzz that was built and credibility that was attained by premiering such an impressive technology on such a public stage is already giving IBM’s offering “a huge marketing edge” over those of competing tech giants such as Google and Microsoft, according to Versace. More proof that integrating your brand messaging (“Watson is an amazing technology”) with an entertainment property (Jeopardy) is the best way to elevate your brand.